CC Capsule: 1991 Mazda Capella (GD) GLX Cargo Wagon – Outstandingly Unremarkable

It’s about time I found a Mazda worth writing up. I couldn’t, so this one will have to do. The few older representatives of the marque that are encountered on a fairly regular basis around here are the RX-7s – and usually only of the second or third generation, at that. From what I’m seeing on the ground, when it comes to wagons, Japanese classic car connoisseurs prefer RWD Nissans and Toyotas way above anything else. So when I saw this Capella, I was almost excited, though it struck me as rather aggressively bland.

If you have been reading most of the JDM wagon posts I’ve been writing since I moved to Japan, this Mazda’s production life is sure to sound familiar (but not “Familia,” that’s a different model.) By that, I mean that many of you will remember these as the Mazda 626, but also that this is another case of a wagon outlasting the saloon it derives from by several years.

The Toyota Mark II X70, the Toyota Crown S130 and S170 or the Nissan Cedric / Gloria Y30 are outstanding JDM examples of this peculiarity, which it seems is fairly (but not exclusively) prevalent in Japan. The wagons outlived their saloon ancestor by over a decade, in the Nissan and the Mark II’s case. As to the Mazda Capella wagon, its afterlife was relatively brief, by comparison: the saloon was made from 1987 to 1994, but the wagon lasted from 1988 to 1999.

Here’s the fifth generation Capella in its four main variants: saloon, hatchback, coupé and wagon / van. Engines for these fine machines included a 1.6 (73PS) for the base spec van, several versions of two 1.8 litre 4-cyl. (B- and F-series blocks, OHC and DOHC, anything from 82 to 115 PS), and several 2-litre options (petrol and Diesel, 61 to 165 PS). Most models could be had with AWD and some could also have electronic all-wheel steering.

But the wagon (and even more so the no frills van, of course) traditionally went for the more sedate stuff. AWD was not uncommon on these, but AWS was never on the options list – the fancy coupé and hatchback saloon got expensive toys like that.

Our feature car is a mid-level GLX with the 4-speed auto transmission; a 5-speed manual was standard. The interior, much like the exterior, looks nice enough but a bit on the bland side – completely in keeping with the era and target customer, I guess. Seats look rather comfy, though.

The French say that cuisine is the art of using leftovers, in which case Japanese carmakers are master chefs. The sixth generation Capella / 626 saloon took over in July 1994, but the standard-issue fifth generation Cargo wagon lasted 12 extra months. For its part, the van was sold until early 1999.

Additionally, from 1994 to 1997, Mazda also marketed the Capella Wagon (sans “Cargo”). It was a sort of CUV based on the Cargo Wagon, but was given a second life with the help of substantial body cladding and the dash of the Ford Telstar, a blue oval variant of the Capella sold in several Asia-Pacific countries.

Mazdas seem to fall into two categories: madly styled rotary-powered exotics or characterless snorefest appliances. It’s pretty clear that the fifth generation Capella, aside from some coupés, is neither glamorously styled, particularly performance-oriented nor technologically daring – certainly not enough to stand out of the crowd. The wagon’s decade-plus production run was not even enough to warrant a substantial following: I haven’t seen any of those later CUV-style Capellas around. They exited stage left, like a great many unlamented models that have not had a lasting impact, nor a wide fan base. This 30-year-old wagon is relatively rare nowadays, especially in this condition, but it’s still less than exceptional.


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